Second grant means rekenrek project will help 600 children

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Amy How, a Canadian-born teacher who now lives in West Yorkshire, has received a second round of funding from SHINE for her innovative idea, ‘One Tool – All of the Facts’ which uses a Dutch counting frame- known as a rekenrek-to transform whole-class teaching of times tables.

She was originally awarded a grant of £6,850 from the Let Teachers SHINE competition, allowing her to implement her project in five schools, helping 300 children. This year, she has received a further £19,000 and has been able to introduce her idea into 10 schools, supporting 600 children.

The project aims to increase children’s understanding and recall of the times tables by manipulating the rekenrek so that children start to see patterns. Amy feels that the beauty of this project is it’s easily incorporated into daily practice, meaning it doesn’t take up much time in an already packed curriculum.

In the first stages of the project, Amy was particularly excited about the prospect of helping hundreds of children develop a love and understanding of maths. The key point of the project is to give children a solid understanding of the times tables while developing number sense. It is not just for the children that find times tables difficult, it is for all.

Reflecting on her own time as a teacher, Amy said: “I have had years of experience watching children get frustrated, anxious, and unmotivated to retain basic number sense through traditional methods. This is where the rekenrek is such a useful tool because it is unique in its simplicity but also in its ability to see what students are thinking.

“Using the rekenrek, I have seen children thrive and get excited about a new maths tool which increases their understanding and recall of maths facts. The process is simple, innovative and easily learned. There is no stigma attached to this “new” tool and so ALL children benefit, not only those who are struggling, but those who simply know the times table facts but don’t have any deeper understanding of the patterns associated with these facts.

“It is really exciting for the teachers and the children. You get to see so much improvement.”

Using the rekenrek, I have seen children thrive and get excited about a new maths tool which increases their understanding and recall of maths facts.

Amy How

Speaking about the SHINE team and the invaluable support she has received for her project, she said: “I was thrilled when I received the phone call from SHINE. There is nothing better than an organisation like this one saying we believe in your project; your idea is good enough to be funded twice.

“I will forever be indebted to them for this opportunity because how else would I have got my project out there without their support?”

Amy talked about how with the support from SHINE she was able to go on a massive learning journey in her first year of funding, ready for her second. She said: “I think the first year was definitely a learning curve. There were hiccups along the way but we were able to deal with them.

“What I love about SHINE is that they always want to work together through any issues that crop up. This really prepared me for my second year of funding where I was able to know how I would change things and when the end-of-year results came in from the project, it was really encouraging. I learnt a lot.

“SHINE is to me, more than just funding, they have been able to offer me ongoing support. Things like marketing, where they made an incredible video on this particular project.

“The informative sessions which changed the way I thought about planning, legal advice, coaching advice and scaling up advice. It can be overwhelming thinking about how much planning has to go into it in order to be successful but with SHINE, they guide you through all of that.

“They help you through this incredible process and at the end you can say, I know it works, but now with their help I can prove that it works.

“I am forever indebted to their ongoing support and how approachable they are, it is much more than just the funding, but of course the funding is amazing too!”

Amy is very ambitious for the future and is hoping to have a big outreach, putting the tool in the hands of children, telling people about the rekenrek and demonstrating its benefits and how to use it.

She added: “As I begin the next stages of my project with my second round of funding, I have started to work with more schools which have expressed a great interest. I hope to deliver training in clusters of schools rather than individually so it can have the biggest impact.

“I hope to also do some more evaluation of my project, potentially comparing schools using the rekenrek to those that don’t to further measure the impact.

“Further down the line, I want to be in as many schools as I can be, both in the UK and internationally. I feel like the opportunities are endless. But SHINE has made me realise how big the opportunity is, but also given me the tools so I can actually do this.

“It’s been life-changing, not just for me but also for the children who are using the rekenrek. For those children that have previously found these maths skills daunting, they have been able to understand and learn in new ways, which is really rewarding!”


At SHINE we’ve always believed in the power of inspirational teachers to change lives. We look forward to supporting Amy and learning more about the impact of rekenrek on the children who need it most.

Fiona Spellman CEO, SHINE